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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 75 The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 75 The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View. Post by :slayer Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :3312

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 75 The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 75 The Right Whale's Head--Contrasted View.

Crossing the deck, let us now have a good long look at the Right
Whale's head.

As in general shape the noble Sperm Whale's head may be compared to a
Roman war-chariot (especially in front, where it is so broadly
rounded); so, at a broad view, the Right Whale's head bears a rather
inelegant resemblance to a gigantic galliot-toed shoe. Two hundred
years ago an old Dutch voyager likened its shape to that of a
shoemaker's last. And in this same last or shoe, that old woman of
the nursery tale, with the swarming brood, might very comfortably be
lodged, she and all her progeny.

But as you come nearer to this great head it begins to assume
different aspects, according to your point of view. If you stand on
its summit and look at these two F-shaped spoutholes, you would take
the whole head for an enormous bass-viol, and these spiracles, the
apertures in its sounding-board. Then, again, if you fix your eye
upon this strange, crested, comb-like incrustation on the top of the
mass--this green, barnacled thing, which the Greenlanders call the
"crown," and the Southern fishers the "bonnet" of the Right Whale;
fixing your eyes solely on this, you would take the head for the
trunk of some huge oak, with a bird's nest in its crotch. At any
rate, when you watch those live crabs that nestle here on this
bonnet, such an idea will be almost sure to occur to you; unless,
indeed, your fancy has been fixed by the technical term "crown" also
bestowed upon it; in which case you will take great interest in
thinking how this mighty monster is actually a diademed king of the
sea, whose green crown has been put together for him in this
marvellous manner. But if this whale be a king, he is a very sulky
looking fellow to grace a diadem. Look at that hanging lower lip!
what a huge sulk and pout is there! a sulk and pout, by carpenter's
measurement, about twenty feet long and five feet deep; a sulk and
pout that will yield you some 500 gallons of oil and more.

A great pity, now, that this unfortunate whale should be hare-lipped.
The fissure is about a foot across. Probably the mother during an
important interval was sailing down the Peruvian coast, when
earthquakes caused the beach to gape. Over this lip, as over a
slippery threshold, we now slide into the mouth. Upon my word were I
at Mackinaw, I should take this to be the inside of an Indian wigwam.
Good Lord! is this the road that Jonah went? The roof is about
twelve feet high, and runs to a pretty sharp angle, as if there were
a regular ridge-pole there; while these ribbed, arched, hairy sides,
present us with those wondrous, half vertical, scimetar-shaped slats
of whalebone, say three hundred on a side, which depending from the
upper part of the head or crown bone, form those Venetian blinds
which have elsewhere been cursorily mentioned. The edges of these
bones are fringed with hairy fibres, through which the Right Whale
strains the water, and in whose intricacies he retains the small
fish, when openmouthed he goes through the seas of brit in feeding
time. In the central blinds of bone, as they stand in their natural
order, there are certain curious marks, curves, hollows, and ridges,
whereby some whalemen calculate the creature's age, as the age of an
oak by its circular rings. Though the certainty of this criterion is
far from demonstrable, yet it has the savor of analogical
probability. At any rate, if we yield to it, we must grant a far
greater age to the Right Whale than at first glance will seem

In old times, there seem to have prevailed the most curious fancies
concerning these blinds. One voyager in Purchas calls them the
wondrous "whiskers" inside of the whale's mouth;* another, "hogs'
bristles"; a third old gentleman in Hackluyt uses the following
elegant language: "There are about two hundred and fifty fins growing
on each side of his upper CHOP, which arch over his tongue on each
side of his mouth."

*This reminds us that the Right Whale really has a sort of whisker,
or rather a moustache, consisting of a few scattered white hairs on
the upper part of the outer end of the lower jaw. Sometimes these
tufts impart a rather brigandish expression to his otherwise solemn

As every one knows, these same "hogs' bristles," "fins," "whiskers,"
"blinds," or whatever you please, furnish to the ladies their busks
and other stiffening contrivances. But in this particular, the
demand has long been on the decline. It was in Queen Anne's time
that the bone was in its glory, the farthingale being then all the
fashion. And as those ancient dames moved about gaily, though in the
jaws of the whale, as you may say; even so, in a shower, with the
like thoughtlessness, do we nowadays fly under the same jaws for
protection; the umbrella being a tent spread over the same bone.

But now forget all about blinds and whiskers for a moment, and,
standing in the Right Whale's mouth, look around you afresh. Seeing
all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you
not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing
upon its thousand pipes? For a carpet to the organ we have a rug of
the softest Turkey--the tongue, which is glued, as it were, to the
floor of the mouth. It is very fat and tender, and apt to tear in
pieces in hoisting it on deck. This particular tongue now before us;
at a passing glance I should say it was a six-barreler; that is, it
will yield you about that amount of oil.

Ere this, you must have plainly seen the truth of what I started
with--that the Sperm Whale and the Right Whale have almost entirely
different heads. To sum up, then: in the Right Whale's there is no
great well of sperm; no ivory teeth at all; no long, slender mandible
of a lower jaw, like the Sperm Whale's. Nor in the Sperm Whale are
there any of those blinds of bone; no huge lower lip; and scarcely
anything of a tongue. Again, the Right Whale has two external
spout-holes, the Sperm Whale only one.

Look your last, now, on these venerable hooded heads, while they yet
lie together; for one will soon sink, unrecorded, in the sea; the
other will not be very long in following.

Can you catch the expression of the Sperm Whale's there? It is the
same he died with, only some of the longer wrinkles in the forehead
seem now faded away. I think his broad brow to be full of a
prairie-like placidity, born of a speculative indifference as to
death. But mark the other head's expression. See that amazing lower
lip, pressed by accident against the vessel's side, so as firmly to
embrace the jaw. Does not this whole head seem to speak of an
enormous practical resolution in facing death? This Right Whale I
take to have been a Stoic; the Sperm Whale, a Platonian, who might
have taken up Spinoza in his latter years.

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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 76 The Battering-Ram. Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 76 The Battering-Ram.

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 76 The Battering-Ram.
Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would haveyou, as a sensible physiologist, simply--particularly remark itsfront aspect, in all its compacted collectedness. I would have youinvestigate it now with the sole view of forming to yourself someunexaggerated, intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram powermay be lodged there. Here is a vital point; for you must eithersatisfactorily settle this matter with yourself, or for ever remainan infidel as to one of the most appalling, but not the less trueevents, perhaps anywhere to be found in all recorded history.You observe that in the ordinary swimming position of the SpermWhale,

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 74 The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View. Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 74 The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View.

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 74 The Sperm Whale's Head--Contrasted View.
Here, now, are two great whales, laying their heads together; let usjoin them, and lay together our own.Of the grand order of folio leviathans, the Sperm Whale and the RightWhale are by far the most noteworthy. They are the only whalesregularly hunted by man. To the Nantucketer, they present the twoextremes of all the known varieties of the whale. As the externaldifference between them is mainly observable in their heads; and as ahead of each is this moment hanging from the Pequod's side; and as wemay freely go from one to the other, by merely stepping across thedeck:--where,